AT editor Greg Barton takes his apartment for a drive, and discovers that there is such a thing as too much comfort on the road . . .
It might be just me, but when I think of gigantic motorhomes cruising around Australia, I automatically think: Winnebago. Australian Traveller has always had a pretty close association with Winnebago, and in fact we road-tested one (rather unfairly) against a $350,000 Maserati in a special Father’s Day romp around Tasmania last year. You can click here for that story, but without spoiling the result too much, the winner of the Winnebago versus Maserati duel was . . . well, it was a tie. Each to his own – that kind of thing.
However, having just returned from a long weekend cruising along the NSW Central Coast in KEA’s most recent challenge to the Winnebago stranglehold, I have to say that there’s a new player in town.
“Have apartment, will travel” is the slogan KEA has come up with to accompany the release of its new six-berth luxury motorhome. And they ain’t lying. Sitting in air-conditioned comfort behind heavily tinted windows looking out over the gorgeous evening setting of Hardys Bay (near Woy Woy, about an hour north of Sydney), I got the distinct impression you could pretty much take this thing anywhere and be in constant ease. Even that becomes a life-style choice. Do you want to get amongst it? If so, just take a tent and some fly spray. But if you want basically your own castle in which to retreat at the merest sign of discomfort, there is no better way to travel.
In brief, it’s got all the mod-cons: kitchen, dining & living area, shower, toilet etc. It’s great for the lazy traveller, because it’s roomy enough to just casually strew your luggage everywhere, toss your golf clubs into the lounge seating area at the rear and pull up a seat-belted couch. It’s got a king-size bed and two queen-size beds. Then it remains only for you to put your feet up and watch a bit of digital plasma TV – or perhaps a DVD. It’s almost too comfortable.
The 130-litre fridge keeps things absurdly cold and had plenty of room for grand finals weekend beers. The gas hot water and cooking systems mean you’ve got hotplates, griller and piping hot shower options regardless of whether you find a powered site to plug into. Solar panels on the roof also mean you can last pretty much indefinitely and still run everything except the microwave.
I’ve struggled with awnings before. They look great, but are often tricky to assemble and – to be honest – not worth the hassle. This one’s easy, though. A simple winding mechanism will have it up and creating shade in something like 40 seconds. A warning, though: they’re for shade only – the merest hint of wind will turn it into a giant sail and probably snap the whole thing off.
At six metres long, it’s still a bit nerve wracking to climb behind the wheel of something this large – and hope to navigate it safely out of the cramped streets of a place like Sydney. But it couldn’t feel safer and easier to handle if it tried. Hidden under the sun-flap in front of the driver is a rear-vision video screen, so you can safely reverse without denting other cars.
Surprisingly good pick-up at the lights, too; there were several occasions on this trip when I left the drivers of adjacent cars behind, looking a little startled and lost for words. There are few things more satisfying than that – especially in a vehicle more traditionally associated with slowing things down and causing huge queues.
The highlight of the long weekend though? My fiancé getting the bacon sizzling on the hotplate, a cool breeze shouldering its way through any of about 12 windows (there are a lot of windows), the quietly flapping awning framing the setting sun over Hardys Bay complete with walkers, people eating fish ‘n’ chips, dogs running about and bobbing boats, a book near to hand, nothing else on the afternoon schedule . . . and the flat-screen TV picking up the broadcast of the AFL grand final. Now that’s an apartment worth taking with you on holidays.
DETAILS // KEA COASTAL CRUISING
The 6-berth motorhome will cost you from about $275 a day (insurance extra –taking it up to around $330 a day), minimum 5day booking, so with six people that works out pretty good. The argument is that you could easily book a nice beach house for the same amount – but to that I say, can you then drive that same beach house from town to town, seeing and doing far more over your five days? Of course not. There are nine KEA depots across Australia, Adelaide, Alice Springs, Brisbane, Broome, Cairns, Darwin, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. More info on 1800 252 555 or at www.keacampers.com